During a meditation retreat many years ago, a Zen monk taught me an analogy I’ll never forget.
He said the mind is like a glass of sandy water, the particles of sand representing our thoughts. As the water is swirling around, much like the human condition of the mind, the water is mirky and cloudy.
Many will resolve that the way to clarity would be to remove the sand, however, the monk posed a transformative question. “What happens if you set the glass of water down”?
Everyone looked around at each other quizzically.
Slowly, you could see light bulbs going off. Still, no one was speaking up. Perhaps they, like me, were concerned about answering the question incorrectly.
After a minute of awkward silence, I cleared my throat and mustered up the courage to speak and asked ”Well… wouldn’t the sand just eventually sink to the bottom of the glass”?
“Yes,” he said, following with another question: “And how would that change the water?
”It would become clear” I concluded. He nodded and smiled humbly.
It seems so simple, but yet, how many of us have this pre-conceived notion about meditation? That we must remove all thoughts from our mind to find clarity and peace? We believe there must have to be a struggle, or complicated techniques, or extensive experience before we can “get there”. But what if all we need to do is stop long enough to let the sand settle?
This translates to all aspects of conscious living. From decision making to communication, to leadership, to self-care. Can you imagine what life would be like if we paused more often?
What would our careers, relationship with self and others, and the way we interact with the world be like?
What if we paused more often to ask ourselves “how do I want to experience life”? and before every decision, action or interaction, decide which choice aligns with that very experience?
Some of you may be thinking you don’t have time to pause. Maybe you feel that you’re barely keeping up with life as it is. But consider the time and energy you will conserve when you are no longer reactive to situations, at times regretting words, actions and decisions, and having to choose again to right your path.
Pausing brings us into the present moment. The only moment that really exists, as the past and future exist only in our mind. The eternal moment of now is the only moment where we have creative power.
What the Zen monk taught me, and what Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher and writer refer to as “non-doing” may be seemingly unproductive to the general population. Yet somehow it is the most productive of all, as it leads us to create rather than react, and inspires conscious right-doing, or right action.
So if we were to embrace the power of pause….how would we love, lead, inspire, and show up for our life?